Boko Haram civilian abductions in Nigeria: The nightmare continues

Far from the current flashpoints in international news since the 276 Chibok girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram four years ago, the nightmare of civilian abductions in Nigeria continues unabated
Boko Haram civilian abductions in Nigeria: The nightmare continues
Slippers are pictured at the school compound in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, where dozens of school girls went missing after an attack on the village by Boko Haram – Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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Far from the current flashpoints in international news since the 276 Chibok girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram four years ago attracting worldwide condemnation, the nightmare of civilian abductions in Nigeria continues unabated, just when the Abuja government is considering an amnesty for repentant rebels.

On March, Boko Haram, the fundamentalist guerrilla that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in the West African nation, released more than 100 of the schoolgirls it abducted in Dapchi in Yobe State on February 19.

Armed militants pretending to be soldiers herded the girls into trucks and escaped; five of them resulted trampled to death the same day and the sixth “refused to cooperate,” according to reports by local media outlets.

The Nigerian Federal Government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari was initially slow to act but then said it would negotiate with the group. Buhari has denied any ransoms were paid, yet some aspects of the case remain murky.

The report “Nigeria: Security forces failed to act on warnings about Boko Haram attack hours before abduction of schoolgirls” by Amnesty International said both the army and police had been warned that Boko Haram would abduct the girls and made no attempt to stop them in spite of the warnings, a situation that repeated itself after the kidnappers released them into the centre of Dapchi in northeast Nigeria.

The Nigerian authorities held several Boko Haram commanders who could have been handed over as barter, particularly following the appearance in a video of one of the commanders threatening the government who was swapped for 82 Chibok girls less than three days after their release.

The aforementioned commander, identified as Shuaibu Moni, led the Easter Day guerrilla attacks against Christians and government institutions on four communities in the suburb of Maiduguri, the capital and largest city of Borno State, leaving at least  20 people dead and 83 wounded.

Intelligence sources said Moni would be the leader of a third splinter group in Boko Haram, thus making the proposed amnesty program a tough task.

Several Western media outlets have criticised the alleged payment of ransom for kidnapping, while some diplomats and government advisers in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, have “bitterly opposed the decision to make concessions” to insurgents and questioned the role of Switzerland, which was said to have “influenced Buhari” on his negotiating approach.

Painful memories

The attack on Dapchi brings back painful memories of the April 2014 Chibok abduction that garnered international attention with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to pressure the Nigerian government into action.

A total of 112 girls are still missing and 13 are presumed dead from that attack. Parents of the Chibok girls happened to be in Dapchi to commiserate with their counterparts and urge them to be patient, just before their daughters were released.

With Boko Haram divided and in disarray, cases of the Islamist extremists using abducted girls who refuse sexual slavery as “human bombs” has been increasing in Nigeria’s northeast region, not far from the Cameroon border, where the insurgency has spread.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, suicide bombing attacks by Boko Haram in 2017 increased five times compared to the previous year.

Over 135 children were used as “human bombs,” 70% young girls. The majority of them were aged 15 or younger, and some detonated their explosives with babies on their backs.

“In addition to the sheer number of women used as suicide bombers, Boko Haram has also used a great number of women as a percentage of its total suicide bombers than any other groups in history,” said the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center for its part, according to “Exploding Stereotypes: The Unexpected Operational and Demographic Characteristics of Boko Haram’s Suicide Bombers” a study cited by the Japanese newspaper, The Mainichi.

Boko Haram is waging a violent campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate opposed to what it perceives as Western-style education in northern Nigeria since 2009. More than 20,000 people have been killed and two million have fled to date.


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Edited by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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